, Salem, MA

January 29, 2014

Our view: Cheers, jeers

The Salem News

---- — CHEERS to Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill who, in his inaugural address, promised an “open and inclusive” era of city government. He’s off to a good start.

The new chief executive announced last week that the city will hold five forums over the next month to allow residents to give their opinions on whether the city’s hoped-for new, $73 million middle school should include fifth-graders. Currently, fifth-graders stay in their neighborhood elementary schools, and the middle school uses a grade six through grade eight configuration. The first meeting is tomorrow night at 7 at Hannah Elementary School.

Backers of the five-through-eight model say it is better for the youngsters’ social, emotional and educational growth. It would also ease crowding at the elementary schools. Opponents fear adding fifth-graders to the school would cost too much money. There are also concerns about having fifth-graders on the same bus as eighth-graders.

Either way, many parents felt their opinions on the issue were ignored or brushed aside by the previous administration, something Cahill vowed to fix before the School Committee votes on the school’s configuration Feb 26.

“My goal is that we have the public as involved in the process as we can on this over the coming four weeks,” Cahill told reporter Paul Leighton.

That’s good news. While there’s no guarantee parents will like the School Committee’s final decision, they are guaranteed a chance to have their voices heard.

JEERS to the scammers working the phones in the Danvers area.

Police say someone has been calling around town trying to convince folks that their electric service will be shut off if they don’t pay their bill. Of course, the bills aren’t overdue, but once the money is “paid,” it is most likely lost forever.

The scammers hitting Danvers recently made the mistake of calling Kary Andrinopoulos at New Brothers Restaurant and Deli on a busy Saturday. You don’t get to be a successful businessman by being an easy mark, and Andrinopoulos could smell a rat on the other end of the phone. He didn’t pay. Even better, Selectman David Mills, a former prosecutor and judge, was at the restaurant for lunch at the time, and he alerted town officials to the scam.

A separate scam making the rounds has callers telling people their relative has been taken hostage or was involved in a car accident. The caller then tells the victim they can purchase a so-called “Green Dot” debit card to forward them the money.

The advice police give is simple: If you suspect you’re being scammed, don’t send money. Hang up and call the police.

JEERS to the Obama administration for sitting on nearly $490 million in home heating assistance for low-income citizens, even as large parts of the country are struggling with historically cold temperatures and rising fuel costs. About $13.5 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds would be used to help about 50,000 customers in Massachusetts.

Even Obama’s allies, Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, say the money should be distributed as soon as possible.

“A combination of frigid temperatures and higher-than-anticipated energy prices is creating a dire situation for many New England households,” the senators wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Releasing the nearly $490 million in remaining LIHEAP funds for this year as soon as possible is imperative to ensure that families who have already been stretched to the limit by these cuts can continue to pay their heating bills. We urge HHS to immediately release Massachusetts’ share of all remaining heating assistance funds for the current year.”

CHEERS to Red Sox pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara, who recently brought the team’s 2013 World Series championship trophy on a tour of their homeland, Japan. The Japanese are as nuts about baseball as Americans, so seeing the World Series trophy and two of their own baseball heroes, who contributed much toward winning it, must have been a treat.

While in Japan, Tazawa and Uehara visited U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and presented her with a Red Sox jersey. They did the same for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who seemed particularly pleased with his jersey.

The Red Sox are always on the lookout for prospects — so, perhaps, Uehara and Tazawa might ask to see Abe’s fastball.